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Hershey wins AHL East with OT win over Manchester

NHL.com @NHL
The defending AHL champion Hershey Bears earned a chance to defend their Calder Cup championship with a 3-2 overtime victory over the Manchester Monarchs on Saturday night, giving them a six-game victory in the Eastern Conference finals.

Boyd Kane, captain of the Bears’ 2006 championship team, sent Hershey into the final for the fourth time in five years since they became the Washington Capitals’ top farm team by scoring 7:06 into overtime, capping Hersey’s comeback from a 2-0 deficit. Kane became the seventh Hershey player to score an overtime goal in this year’s postseason.

Nine of Hershey’s 12 wins during this year’s Calder Cup Playoffs have come after the Bears trailed in the third period, including Saturday’s clincher. Four of the six games in the series, including three of Hershey’s wins, came in OT.

Manchester, the Los Angeles Kings’ top farm team, led 2-0 after two periods. John Zeiler scored with 17 seconds left in the first period and defenseman Joe Piskula doubled the lead at 17:44 of the second.

Jonathan Bernier was less than 13 minutes away from a shutout before Alexandre Giroux fired home a rebound at 7:37 of the third period for his team-high 12th goal of the playoffs. Defenseman Patrick McNeill tied it less than seven minutes later, beating Bernier with a shot from the point that went through traffic.

McNeill and Kyle Wilson set up Kane’s OT winner, which dropped Manchester to 0-8 all-time when facing elimination in the postseason.

Bears goaltender Michal Neuvirth, the MVP of last year’s championship run, stopped 32 shots for the win.

Hershey, making its 22nd appearance in the Calder Cup final, is trying to complete perhaps the greatest season in AHL history. Under first-year coach Mark French, the Bears set a league record with 60 wins and finished with 123 points (60-17-0-3), the second-highest total in the AHL’s 74-year history.
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